Destruction and Transformation: Vernacular Photography and the Built Environment at New York City’s Walther Collection, an art space featuring historical and contemporary photography, looks at what happens when buildings disappear. The exhibition will showcase 16 photographic series ranging from 1876 to 2000 that focus on building demolition, with a focus on two sites in particular: the Appalachian coalfields, where natural resource extraction has decimated the local landscape and ecology; and New York City, an urban environment dominated by cycles of cash-fueled construction and destruction.

Although the exhibition will center on demolition, Destruction and Transformation will force visitors to confront the drastic and often harsh effects of modernization and urban expansion that come often at the expense of nature, history, and native populations.

Rather than focus on a single photographer, the exhibition displays numerous documentary images taken in New York City over the course of a century, including Harvey F. Dutcher’s 1939 series depicting the gradual destruction of the Sixth Avenue Elevated Railroad, as well as an anonymous photographer’s meticulous survey of stores along Sixth Avenue, many of which have since disappeared.

Destruction and Transformation will also include panoramic photos of evolving landscapes, including images of the construction of San Francisco, the famous Viaur Viaduct in Southern France, and the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.

Destruction and Transformation: Vernacular Photography and the Built Environment
February 8–May 25, 2019
Walther Collection
526 West 26th Street, Suite 718
New York, N.Y. 10001

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